a little post of my own

*After a few days, this post just wasn't sitting well with me.  I pointed fingers and passed judgement.  I was unkind and snotty.  I'm sincerely sorry.  I have modified this post and hope that if my original post offended anyone, that they can know that I'm very sorry for venting the way I did.  I honestly regret it and have learned from this mistake.*

It has been said that allowing your baby to cry it out so you can both sleep is necessary if you wish to function well as a mother.  Perhaps this is true for some, but in general I would argue that sleep is not the most important thing, and that giving up sleep and responding to your baby's cries is crutial to his emotional and brain development.  That one day sleep will be easier to come by and in the mean time, you can be happy and nice, and by giving up sleep you are doing something worth sacrificing for. 

I feel that there is a choice when it comes to this issue: who's needs am I going to consider first?  The popular choice these days seems to be MINE.  We are told that this is right, that if our needs are met first we are better able to meet the needs of our family. Of course you don't want to run yourself completely ragged, but you are a mother now.  Think of your baby first. It is now your job to meet his needs.  That is what motherhood is.  Why has success in motherhood been confused with integrating a baby into your life with as little inconvenience to yourself as possible, no matter the tears shed? 

When you become a mom, you are probably going to be tired.  All the time.  And that IS okay.  We can buck up, change our attitudes, and make the necessary sacrifices to ensure that our babies are nurtured when they can't understand anything beyond our responses to their cries or the lack thereof.  There is such a push to look out for ME.   I'm reminded of a TV episode I saw once many years ago.  A friend comes over to find the father, sitting on the bumper of his car, gently bouncing it up and down.  In some humorous way it came out that the father was helping their baby fall asleep this way, as they had found it to be the only thing that worked.  I'm not at all suggesting that this is the right way to do things, but it seems that not long ago, parents were more willing to cater to the preferences of their children, going to great lengths to find what worked for their baby, not just what was convenient for them. Parents were more willing to sacrifice their own comfort. 

Now, I'm not saying that having a baby who sleeps well is a sign that you are not caring or attached.  I know many mothers who's babies sleep wonderfully. I think lovingly, slowly tuning in to your child's sleep schedule and patiently teaching her to sleep in her own bed is wonderful and truly admirable.  With each baby I vow to be better about it, but I've never been able to do this long-term.  It seems whenever we'd find a good groove, a tooth would come or a stuffy nose, or we'd go on a trip and we were back to square one.  With other young children also needing me, attempting this process time and again just made me more tired, and to be honest it made me more frustrated about the sleep I wasn't getting.  So I learned to just roll with it, to feed my babies in my bed at night, to wake up with a dead arm and a stiff neck from the little body nestled next to mine, to live in a bit of a fog for a few months.  Yes, I'm tired.  But I don't resent my life or wish for something else.  I feel like the more I give, the deeper my satisfaction in this role.  The less I try to make things go according to my plan, the more I enjoy just loving my babies.

Jack was born almost five years ago. He wouldn't sleep for more than 2 hours at a time, usually less, for the first several months of his life. I remember kneeling by my bed, exhausted and sobbing somewhere in that time. This was a far cry from the life I had before he was born, and I didn't think I could handle it. I pleaded before the Lord for a good night's sleep. I honestly felt I couldn't go on. I went to bed, with sincere hope that that prayer would be answered. Less than an hour later, Jack was awake. I got up and nursed him back to sleep, again. and again. I'm not trying to downplay how difficult it is to be tired.  I resorted to the cry it out method once out of desperation myself.   It felt wrong to me, it felt unnatural to not respond to his cries and I couldn't do it.  So instead of praying for sleep, I started praying for the energy to be a good and happy wife and mother. That prayer is usually answered, even after really hard nights.  I have had maybe ten nights of really good sleep since then. Maybe. I don't say this to make myself sound either impressive or like a martyr. I say this because I am happy, not always, but most of  the time. I'm at least as happy as I was in general before I ever had babies and was sleeping soundly. It was hard, it is still hard some nights, but responding to my baby's cries feels like the right thing to do, so I do it anyway.

You won't always be tired, sleep will come soon enough. But you won't ever have this tender time with your baby again, and I think you'll only regret being anything but loving and responsive. Motherhood is a full time job unlike any other, 24 hours, night and day. No one feels their best on little sleep, but you can just go on anyway. You can learn to be patient anyway. You CAN be tired and happy at the same time, but you have to change and adapt. You can't expect to carry on as you always have, but you can expect to find joy and satisfaction in your new, tired state.

I'll close with this quote.  It sits near the top of my cousin's blog and I love reading it:

Families mean work, but they are our great work- and we are not afraid of work - Julie Beck



  1. I think you're totally right. I hate it when people say that they're letting their 3 month old just "cry it out" so he'll sleep through the night. I know of a family that did that and the kid stopped eating...and he has some pretty bad psychological issues...and that was before he was 2.

    There are times when Grace is only crying because she doesn't want to go to sleep and she wants to play. However, most of the time when she cries it's for a pretty valid reason. She doesn't normally cry when I put her to bed...she plays. But that's how she is, I guess. I don't see any need to lock her in her room when she's crying. It just seems silly to me. Sometimes when she's throwing a tantrum, I put her in her bed for a few moments or leave her where she is an remove myself for a moment for sanity sake. But those times don't happen every day for me. Sometimes I just need to take a moment and remind myself that I love her (you know those moments) and then I can go back and act out of love rather than anger. Usually I'm a bit more effective after those brief moments away.

  2. First of all, I love this post.
    I think my favorite line from it is this:
    "I feel like the more I give, the deeper my satisfaction in this role. The less I try to make things go according to my plan, the more I enjoy just loving my babies."

    My sons are all raised now, and next month I can even say all 4 are married. I cannot even express how grateful I feel that I "wore my babies"...I tried to be there for their every need. I look back on those years with extreme fondness.

    One of my sons told me about a week ago that he has decided that every 'want' a child has the first year are 'needs.' (His twins just turned one.) It does my heart good that he knows this.

  3. Oh Natalie. You and your mom knew just what to write, right now. And I’m going to be selfish and post twice so I can say my peace and ask for guidance (sorry everyone!) My baby is 7mo old and is suddenly a clingy insecure little being. He has never slept well, waking every 4hrs to be fed and I was totally fine with it. I accepted that responsibility just as you said, because I'm the mom and that is what he is asking of me. And after all, if our child was faced with death and could ask us for our life in trade, what mom wouldn't willingly give it up? But he was a good "go to sleeper"- no crying, just peacefully watching the mobile and drifting off to sleep. Now he cries the minute we walk near his crib and he will scream in his crib if I do lay him down. I've tried everything I can think of: I rock him, I sing to him, I hold him tight, I lay him between his dad and me, I turn off the nightlight, I turn off the fan, I turn on the fan, I changed his sound machine from the ocean back to the heartbeat... Nothing is working. When I put him in our bed, snuggled between his parents, he fidgets and rolls over and then starts to crawl around the bed- how did you keep your little boys in the bed with you that long? without them falling out of the bed? I admit I used to be sort of a cry it out mom. I pamper and spoil my kids as they should be treated. Tons of love and affection and my time regardless of the time of day. But I noticed that with my first son, he got wise around 10mo. And I know they can't really think like that, but he was exhausted and just didn't want to miss anything, so he would cry out because he knew I would come and get him. So after 2-3 times of going in to him and soothing him, when he really did seem to be officially tuckered out, I would just stand by his door. I was there for him, listening if his cries got to a worried tone when I would need to go back to him. And then he was just making a crying noise, then just a slight grunting noise, and then he would fall asleep. My husband said I was punishing myself by listening to him cry, but it was my trade-off. He needed to "cry" to fall asleep, so I was going to be there for him while he did even if he didn't know I was there. That was great, but I can't do that for Chase. He's different, his cries don't subside, he's not making noise just to fall asleep, he's seriously worried or insecure about something and I need to fix it for him. Help?

  4. And as for the old days, my mom said I was a colicky baby. She tells me about all the nights she AND my dad would pace around the house with me for hours at a timee, take midnight drives around the town with me, just so I could get some sleep. That's a lot of devotion and it's self serving too. If I, their little angel ;), was happy and sleeping, then they could sleep in peace too. I paced many a day with Travis to keep him happy and thought nothing of it. I was also told by family members that it was ok for me to need a time out and it really helped the first few months as a new mom- just to know that it was ok for me to feel overwhelmed or unprepared on occasion. And sometimes, I do take one. I can't let life get to me, I have to be the same loving mommy every day, all day/night. It's only two minutes or less, which I know to the boys seems like FOREVER. I make sure they are safe and have no other ills, then I close my door, go into my closet in the dark and breathe deeply. I come out having forgiven myself for getting upset and right our little world the best I can. No one is perfect, but we have to try our best every day for our children and ourselves. And I loved hearing yours and your mothers perspectives on babyhood. You should be passionate about it! It goes by so quickly, there are so few moments to get it right- whatever version you happen to feel is the way to go. No not everyone will do the same thing, but I have noticed a push, and a hard shove at that, towards neglecting your children's wants (sometimes needs) in order to get them prepared for life. I had a pre-calculus teacher in high school who decided to teach her class like it was a "college course" in her opinion. Apparently to her, this meant not offering help outside the classroom, not slowing down when a few students were confused, neglecting the cries for attention and not fulfilling our needs for more explanation. Needless to say, I almost failed that class and I was a good student. So yup, I totally hear you/feel you on this issue. We haven't done the same things, but I think we have both done what we felt was right. You should never ignore your gut feelings. And when my baby cries, my tummy burns and cramps and my mind looses all focus. If that isn't a sign to tend to your child, I don't know what else could tell you to.

  5. I actually didn't think it sounded angry. Emphatic, yes, but in a truthful, positive sort of way. I actually feel incredibly inspired by this, Natalie. I struggle with fatigue now, because of health, and I have no kids. I often wonder if I'm up for the job in a few years. I like your straightforward, simple statement: "You CAN be tired and happy at the same time." I give myself excuses NOW for being grumpy if I'm tired, but on the same day, I can feel tired, but also work hard and feel happy. It really depends on the attitude I choose. This post inspires me to keep being happy, no matter the fatigue, especially since I'll need it in the future.

  6. Cat, I think your a wonderful mom. Evidence of your love for your boys is written all over your blog. I love your example of the pre-calculus class. I think it parallels perfectly. It made it easier for the teacher, and in theory she was doing you a "favor" by preparing you for the future, but the reality was you weren't mentally prepared for that hands-off approach and didn't thrive. I love that.

    As far as getting Chase to sleep, I have no idea. I know that isn't helpful. I swaddled Austin because that is how he loved to sleep until he was 11 months old. This made it easier to put him down and he wouldn't try to crawl around. Putting him to bed a little earlier than I used to was also helpful. He would be cheerful enough to go into his bed without a fuss, but sleepy enough that he was out like a light in no time. By seven months Austin was sleeping in his own bed, it was right next to mine. I'd pull him in to eat, then put him back when he was done or when I woke up from drifting off while he was eating. I'm not the person to ask about sleeping advice. I run into the same wall every time...then I just carry on until he's a year and can take a bottle to bed. There are people who are much better at this, and I didn't mean for this post to make myself sound like I have things all figured out. I've taken the "just roll with it" approach, and while it doesn't always help my babies to sleep better, it does feel right to me for us. I don't think there's a magic cure, just tune in and do your best and he will sleep eventually=) I like the different sleep ideas given in the comments section on asking jane have been wonderful. There are some brilliant people out there.=)

  7. I think you make a great point about meeting your children's needs and some of the selfishness we have in our society today. I hear the same kinds of arguments used to justify all sorts of things that are not good for children, like spending excessive time away from our children ("I need my "me" time so I can be a better mom").

    However, I do think there is a balance here. With most babies who are trained to sleep at night by crying it out, it only takes two days or even less. And the payoff is that both the mother and the child learn to sleep better. Other than my first, none of my children has even really "cried it out" because for me, it is a matter of responding to and understanding their cues. Just as I understand which cry means "I'm hungry," I can see in their eyes and hear in their voices the "I'm getting tired" signals and I respond to them. Teaching babies to respond to their body's cues to sleep IS meeting their needs.

    I'm a huge believer in healthy sleep and in the peaceful, happy babies that result. My children learn to sleep in their cribs when they are developmentally ready to, around 4 months old, and then they eventually learn to sleep through the night around 10 months, when they no longer wake up for night feedings.

    My favorite book on the subject is "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child," and while I don't follow everything in the book -- for instance, I love pacifiers -- it is a solid, research-based look at how sleep affects the developing brain, what makes for quality sleep (for example, sleeping while in motion makes it difficult for the body to achieve the deep REM sleep needed for rejuvenation, which is why we wake up groggy after sleeping on a car trip), and gives some tips for how to achieve it.

  8. Parents, especially moms, tend to feel very attached to their own parenting beliefs and practices. The comment you quoted didn't really bother me, probably because it could have been written by me when E was a baby. I see nothing wrong with letting an older baby cry it out for a little while. It only took two or three days before E started going right to sleep. It was hard listening to him cry for those 5 minutes before he dropped off to sleep but he (and I) were better rested for it.

    I don't think it permanently damaged him in any way. He's a loving affectionate child (who sleeps from 7:30pm to 7:30am) and I feel like I'm a good mother to him. Do I feel like the way we parent would work for everyone else?--No. Every family is different and as outsiders we can't know what is best for someone else.

    While I agree that society seems to be more acceptable of selfishness in general, there is some truth to the matter that you can't draw water from a dry well. I think that sometimes we mothers wear martyrdom as a badge of pride whether or not such martyrdom is necessary or even beneficial to our families and ourselves. There's a reason Utah leads the country in use of anti-depressants.

  9. I have to say...I am glad you posted this. I had some of the same thoughts when I read the comments on your mom's post. I think its funny how people will pick out one tiny aspect of something that is written and focus on it while missing the big picture. I think people are naturally defensive about parenting choices because everyone wants to believe that what they are doing is what's best. (nobody wants to be a bad mother). That being said...I love what you said about, "bucking up!" I feel like we are all so used to being told that anything we feel is right, and that nothing should be hard. I think a lot of mom's have that attitude...and just want their babies to fit into their lives in the least disruptive way possible. That is not the point! And I love that you point out that you can be tired and happy at the same time. And that being a mom you WILL be.

    Love this...wish I had time to write more!

  10. I was a little shocked by a few comments as well, like they obviously didn't read the post, bc what they said completely contradicted what your mom was saying.

    Its hard to articulate how I feel about sleep, mostly bc I think that my opinion is based on experience from only one child. I think for me, it was learning to be really in tune to Leah. I was constantly evaluating and re-evaluating how things were going, and I was eager to try new things to see if it helped (changing naptimes, routines, etc). I also learned to recognize when she was just giving a little fuss before falling asleep (more like jabbering), or if she actually needed something (new diaper, repositioning, re-swaddle, or a little snuggle) before she could let herself fall asleep. She was and still is a very independent sleeper. To this day, she won't sleep if someone is in the room, she is just to social and distracted to settle down. I learned that early on, and it has been both a blessing and a curse!

    I'm curious to see how things will be for my future children. I plan to not agonize so much about forcing a schedule so early. (One of the books I read wanted me to start a schedule at 2 weeks old, that's crazy!) Its too frustrating for me, and I now know that their bodies just can't handle a schedule until like 4-6 months. I am going to be much more on-demand focused than schedule-focused. I am a naturally routine-oriented person, so I still hope to shape a schedule for them around 6 months.

    But I really think my overall outlook on my responsibilities as a mother has changed SO much since Leah was an infant. Along with my expectations for infants. I'm really hoping for a better experience.

    But as someone said above, this is a very sensitive subject for most mothers. And I think everyone, whether they are a parent or not, could benefit from "bucking up" and being a little less selfish.

  11. Nats--Thanks for standing up against the "cry it out method." I am shocked in my ward the continual perpetuation of this idea. I feel like finding a person who doesn't think this is gospel child rearing is so rare. I think sometimes sisters in the ward fuel this idea as new moms seek advice from vetrans, etc. and before long everyone thinks it is the right and only way. Also it is interesting that a lot of people outside of the church are all about attachment parenting and not letting your babies cry. We are supposed to be the best mothers in the world. The most nurturing, the most sacrificing. We have the gospel and know that we are raising spirit children with divine potential and we should be giving them the very best start. We need to recognize that responding to our babies cries and needs it our responsibility and can have life long consequences.
    It is so refreshing to hear from people who agree. Also have you heard of the book "The No Cry Sleep Solution"? It offers ways to help your baby learn to sleep gently, not strict training. I have found it a good thing to be able to offer some help to tired moms.
    I love you and admire you so much Natalie. Thank you for standing up for motherhood!!

  12. I think we need to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between letting a tiny 2-month-old baby cry for an extended amount of time and a 10-month-old baby cry for 10 minutes before he falls asleep. And there is a huge difference between being tired and being physically and emotionally exhausted. Motherhood is hard and tiring (anyone who says it isn’t is either lying or on something). But that doesn’t mean that a mother is supposed to fuzzily trudge through each day. Just as a mother needs to learn what her baby is telling her, a mother needs to learn what her body is telling her. Exhausted parenting can be dangerous parenting; so if a mother makes the difficult decision to let her baby cry for a bit so she can regroup and receive not-enough rest, to emerge as a better mother (albeit a still tired one) then good for her. She recognizes that her family needs her.

    I find it offensive (not to mention completely ironic) when mothers try cloaking their superior feelings with the Gospel. Yes, we should be great mothers but I think it’s worth noting that the Church has never given much direct parenting counsel (besides FHE, scripture study, prayer, etc.). This is a worldwide church and as such its members have varied and rich cultural backgrounds that translate into different parenting styles. What we all have is the Spirit. And with that Spirit we must seek out our INDIVIDUAL answers to the myriad of parenting questions and decisions that arise. I applaud the woman who humbly kneels before her Lord and asks for direction that will be best for her family (and yes, that includes more than just her and the baby) and then recognizes that her choices are personal and in no way a rule that others should follow. Instead of tearing others down because they do something we don’t like, shouldn’t we be putting our arms around each other and celebrating the miracles of our precious babies?

  13. I agree with your distinctions, Kristin and Faith. There is a difference in what you described and what I was referring to.

    We are urged by church leaders to nurture our children. We recognize that as our divine calling as mothers. In no way was I saying that in is wrong for a mother to take some time to regain her sanity. I was simply addressing my distaste for the decision to allow a little baby to cry it out because you "need" sleep. We all have opinions about parenting. I sincerely believe that allowing babies to cry for extended periods of time is detrimental to their emotional and brain development. People freely express their opinions to the contrary without getting much flack for it. We can all feel as we wish.

    As I thought on all of this last night, I felt guilty for being as strong-worded as I had been on the subject. I usually am remorseful when I just type and post without giving myself time to ponder. I'm sincerely sorry if I caused offense. It is something I'm passionate about but it is not my place to pass judgment and I know that is how it came across. Motherhood is difficult for everyone, and those who pass on their testimonials of the cry it out method are probably just trying to help ease the burdens of their exhausted peers. Really, that is what I was trying to do. Pass on the idea that it is going to be hard, but it's easier if you face the challenge, allow yourself to grow, and just roll with it. That there is an alternative to the CIO method, albeit more difficult. As I have done this, I have found greater enjoyment in the process. That is what I wanted to share. I could have been nicer about it and I'm honestly sorry if my approach ruined the message or hurt any feelings.

  14. I loved reading the part you added about baby Jack! So tender and sweet. And about waking up with a stiff neck and a arm asleep...I did that every night for a good eight months! And the fussy groggy feeling! Totally can relate. I really appreciate your view point and opinion. And I LOVE your passion!

  15. I am glad you posted this. I have been thinking a lot about these things the past couple years since having my first baby. The current trend to look out for one's self first in child-rearing really bothers me. I hate the way many baby books seem to tell mothers that if they don't make their babies learn to self-soothe (aka cry-it-out), they will have sleep problems for life. I do not believe this to be true and, at first, it made me feel guilty for NOT letting my babies cry-it-out.

    Like you, I am not trying to judge what other moms do, just as I would not want them to judge the way I do things. I just think it's good to read books and ask others' opinions and learn all you can from others' experiences, but when it comes down to it, our Heavenly Father knows best and when we ask him in faith he will help us find the best methods for us...and that may vary from mother to mother, from baby to baby, and from one circumstance to another.

    And as we find those methods that are best for us and the little individuals we are raising, we don't feel guilty about them. We feel happy. Because happiness is found from righteous and prayerful living, from doing what we know to be right.

  16. Forget about sleep and just move on. Just as your last baby sleeps through the night you'll be waiting up for the child who's out babysitting, or on a date, or at work. I'm just entering the phase of having children gone from home but I myself still call my mom sometimes at midnight! Sleep might just be over-rated. :) Congrats to all of you for realy searching out what's best for your little ones, whatever that may be. One day you really will miss that little one in bed with you. Love you Natalie!


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